It's been 3 years into my relationship with fitness and just like any other relationship, there were struggles and there were breakthroughs. Although I tend to paint a pretty picture of my pursuit in this realm, there were many times that I cheated on my workouts and many times that I just wanted to give up on certain muscles because they're just so ridiculously weak and painful to train. (please tell me I'm not alone in this!!!)
While I was trying to name this blog, I surveyed 40 friends with: "Use 1 word to describe me"
Here are the results:
So what has this got to do with what exercise taught me?! If I have not found my way into weight lifting, strength training, yoga, circuit, group fitness etc, I'll never EVER remind people of words such as "fit", "sunshiney", "Yogalicious", definitely never "healthy" or "banana"!
How did these descriptions creep into my life to become part of me? It's exactly the lessons that I've subconsciously picked up during my workouts AND injury recovery.
1. The ability to find comfort in discomfort
Exercise is hardly ever comfortable. The burn in your muscles, the heavy panting, the feeling that you're going to die from the insane weight, the stretch etc. With effort and practice, I've realized that it is perfectly possible to reach a point where you can summon calmness and still keep on going.
Taking deep,conscious breaths helps!
2. Appreciate what my body is capable of.
I never knew that I could do certain crazy looking yoga poses. I never knew that I could lift a barbell. I never knew that I could do a perfect squat. I never knew I could do a long lever push up and many variations of them. Exercise made me try. It gave me the opportunity to try. And because I took the opportunity to try, I realized that I am capable of all these things. That brings me to the next point...
3. Realize that I am much stronger than I imagined myself to be.
Who knew that I'm able to do that extra rep of deadlift? :P Pushing yourself bit by bit and challenging yourself little by little brings you to places that you've never seen yourself at.
Challenge yourself to hold that plank for another 5 seconds or run that extra minute - you'd be surprised ;)
4. Appreciate what my body is incapable of.
Alright. Sometimes I try and I totally suck at it. Like my spine can't twist beyond a certain degree. Like I still can't do inversions. Like I can't do Supermans without feeling like I'm in a torture camp. And sit-ups are so painful for my tailbone. But having knowledge of my physical weaknesses allows me to remember that I'm only human. It is extremely humbling.
5. Never compare yourself to anybody who is not you.
Maybe I'm not the strongest person in the gym. Maybe I'm not the most flexible. Maybe I'm not the best at balancing. But my benchmark is myself, not anyone else. Remember that the person lifting the heaviest weights had started somewhere too.The girl at the front row of the yoga class did not wake up one morning and magically found her head at her shin while doing a forward bend. All these were achieved through dedicated practice and consistent training. We're all on our own personal journeys.
6. Tough times don't last. Tough people do.
Try a few group exercise classes and I'm sure you'd meet at least one crazy instructor who'll make you hold a pose or continue with an exercise that seemed to last FOREVER. Or an instructor who counts down from 10 to 1 and you'd think that it's FINALLY over but that crazy person went on to count back up!!! YOUR MUSCLES BURN. YOU THINK ABOUT STANDING UP FROM THAT SQUAT. YOU ARE SO TEMPTED TO SKIMP ON THAT LAST FEW PUSH UPS...
But the counting has to end at some point, right? Hold it - you're tough and you WILL survive it.
7. Be thankful for my physical capabilities
My 2nd metatarsal fracture this year (pun is TOTALLY intended. It was literally my #2 metatarsal fracture and my 2nd metatarsal was broken) brought me into the operating theater. Don't even bother thinking about running, jumping, dancing... I couldn't even walk. I've never enjoyed running (still don't...) but I so desperately hoped to be able to run again. Eventually I did and I was busy thanking God for this ability. I've never been so thankful for the mere fact that I'm able to run.
Most of us start working out because of vanity. So did I. The transition from the aesthetics to mental, emotional and physical health is long and not easy. Sometimes, part of me still feel obligated to do things for the sake of physical appearance, but I'm slowly shifting my focus toward strength and health. Not sure when this transition will be complete - if it ever would be... But to me, the lean, toned look is just a side effect of exercise - good to have, but not necessary.